Originally Published: March 10, 2011

The 2011 U.S. Open preview

One of the most important contests in snowboarding gets underway in Vermont.

By Colin Bane
ESPN Action Sports
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2011 U.S. Open
Despite poor weather conditions, the Burton U.S. Open soldiered on for it's 29th year.

Mark KohlmanLast year Kazuhiro Kokubo and Kelly Clark cleaned up at the U.S. Open. Can they do it again?

Nobody has been looking forward to this week's Burton U.S. Open more than Kelly Clark, who has added a 1080 to a run that's gotten progressively bigger since she first did it at Winter X in January. She is favored to win the halfpipe event because of it.

"The Open's one of my favorite events in snowboarding," Clark says. "I grew up about 10 minutes from here and I first started coming to the Open as a spectator. It definitely has a place in my heart, simply because of that. It's also the longest running event in snowboarding, so it's got a lot of history and a lot of character. I think everybody looks forward to it because it's the end of the season, so you really see some of the best riding of the year."

Clark, who also won gold at Winter X, Games, won the Winter Dew Tour's Dew Cup championships, and claimed the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix title after her win last weekend at Mammoth, has won every halfpipe event on the TTR tour. Though she was thinking about competing in slopestyle to see if she could give slope dominator Jamie Anderson a run for the TTR World Tour title, she declined to compete yesterday, choosing instead to focus on pipe. The TTR World Tour title is awarded at the end of each competition season to the rider whose results in a variety of events all winter are combined to crown an overall champion; Anderson has been competing in halfpipe, but Clark has not competed in slopestyle.

Mark KohlmanPeetu could slide down the pipe on his back and still walk away with the 2011 TTR World Championship title at the end of the weekend.

"It will definitely be the most technically difficult run I've done this season, because the Open's three-run format caters to progression," Clark says. "I'm looking to get my 900 and my 1080 in the same run and maybe add a new trick I've been working on."

The U.S. Open is something of a victory lap for Jamie Anderson and Peetu Piiroinen, who have already earned enough points to claim the TTR World Tour titles, no matter how they finish in this week's contest.

"It's been a good season," says the understated Piiroinen, who has now won the TTR title three years in a row. "I came with a goal of finishing in the top five in the TTR and just got really good results at every contest. I was honestly kind of surprised because this year the competition has been really heavy."

Even though Piiroinen missed Friday's Open slope finals by one spot, and will be joining heavy hitters like Winter X slope winner Sebastien Toutant (who crashed in the semifinal) and Sage Kotsenburg (who missed the semifinal due to food poisoning) on the sidelines this weekend, the slopestyle finals is sure to be a good show.

"The last jump on the course is like 80 feet so hopefully it's big enough to try some tricks, because I definitely have an idea of what I'd like to do," says Mark McMorris, who landed the first-ever triple cork 1440 last week. "The contest scene has been crazy this year and the level of riding has just been insane. There's no telling what it's going to take to win this week. The U.S. Open is kind of a big deal."

"This is definitely a good contest for new people to step up and really shine," explains pipe favorite Louie Vito. "The Open has so much history to it that you always want to do well and have your name join the likes of Ross Powers, Todd Richards, Terje --all the greats. Guys you might not have seen much from all year, they come out to the Open and make a mark. It's always cool to see that. You never know what you're going to get with the weather out in Vermont -- we're getting some snow right now, but it is what it is. I always get amped up to come here, no matter what."

Watch the event live at metacafe.com -- times below in Eastern Standard:
--Friday, slopestyle finals: Women 10 - 11 a.m., Men 1 - 2:30 p.m.
--Saturday, halfpipe finals: Women 10 - 11 a.m., Men 1 - 2:30 p.m.

A highlights show will be broadcast on ESPN2 on March 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Click here for full semi-final results.

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